Right Set to Converge on GOP Convention

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that right-wing activists were preparing for a fight at the Republican Convention in Minnesota in September:

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September’s Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party’s official declaration of principles.

Well, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press has done some digging and calling around and reports that, indeed, many of the Religious Right’s leaders are planning on attending: 

Former Sen. Bob Dole will attend. But Sen. Elizabeth Dole will not.
Newt Gingrich will be in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. Evangelist Pat Robertson will not.

And first lady Laura Bush will join President Bush here on Sept. 1, the White House says. But former first lady Nancy Reagan will not show up.

With the convention about a month away, the RSVPs and the regrets are piling up. So far, organizers have been reluctant to reveal which dignitaries plan to attend Sen. John McCain’s nominating party Sept. 1-4.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schafly will attend, as will Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Also bound for St. Paul are Gary Bauer of American Values and Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition. But anti-abortion activist Randall Terry said he’s still deciding.

“Denver is a for-sure, and St. Paul we’re still discussing,” Terry said of the two conventions.

If Terry comes to St. Paul, he promises some unspecified civil disobedience, he said, “but it would be done in a way that honored the party’s commitment to the pro-life cause.”

It should be interesting, considering that the Right has traditionally used the GOP convention as an opportunity to showcase its radical agenda.  In fact, the last time GOP was fielding a nominee who was unpopular with the right-wing base was in 1996 with Bob Dole, and when the Right descended on that convention, they tried to throw their weight around and ended up embarrassing the party on national television:

On the eve of the convention, leaders of the Christian Coalition were boasting openly of their influence in the party. Ralph Reed, the group’s baby-faced leader, described in detail how his troops had been prepared to ensure that their views triumphed on their key issue of outlawing all abortions, by mobilizing pro-life delegates through a sophisticated network of floor co-coordinators.

As it turned out, a floor fight was averted and the Christian forces were left on the sidelines. One morning last week, 2,000 of them gathered at an outdoor amphitheatre surrounded by palm trees and placards portraying bloody aborted fetuses. Several kilometers from the convention site, they indulged themselves in the kind of rhetoric that Republican leaders were desperate to keep off the prime-time airwaves. Former vice-president Dan Quayle, one of their heroes, assured them that they should not fear being labeled extremist. “Know what?” he asked. “You aren’t extreme; you are mainstream America.”

Roger O’Dell, a convention delegate and Christian Coalition member from El Paso, Tex., tipped back the white cowboy hat with a “Life of the party” slogan on the band that shielded him from the hammering sun. “I don’t think we’ve been pushed aside,” he reflected. “Most of the people at the convention are with us. We own the convention. But here’s the deal: it took 30 or 35 years to move away from American values, and it’ll take a while longer to win the country back. So we can be patient.”

Another Christian activist, retired electrical engineer Meredith Raney of Florida, proudly sported a T-shirt bearing the uncompromising slogan “Intolerance is a beautiful thing.” On the back was the explanation: God is intolerant of evil; Lincoln was intolerant of slavery; and Churchill was intolerant of Hitler. “Thing is,” said Raney, “Christians are criticized for being intolerant in this party. But there’s a whole lot of intolerance in our history that we’re proud of. With abortion, we’re where we were at with slavery just before the Civil War. Some people thought it was bad, some people said it was OK. I hope we don’t need another civil war to resolve it, but we will win this fight for the unborn.” As for the Republicans’ efforts to keep the Christian right under wraps, Raney said: “I think it could cost them the election. There’s a lot of Christians that won’t vote for Dole – and there’s an awful lot of us.”